The US Department of Defense (DoD) is currently engaged in a “hard push” to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels in an effort to shrink risks on the battlefield.
”Historically, energy has been a decisive factor in warfighting,” explained DoD official Oliver Fritz.
“Most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, where you see fuel not only being needed in increasing quantities, but being moved over a battlefield without front lines.”
Unfortunately, many American lives have been lost escorting (conventional) fuel convoys between bases and forward operating positions.
But, says Fritz, substituting solar energy, biofuel and other technologies in lieu of fossil fuels will pay off in terms of bolstering warfighting capability and protecting troops.
“Those technologies are cleaner and do have a lower carbon footprint… And in a way, that carbon footprint is a metaphor for some of the logistics risks that we’re trying to reduce.”
Indeed, the DoD recently published its first operational energy strategy to improve efficiency and costs. A number of strategic changes are outlined, including the decline of front lines and the emergence of anti-access technologies like missiles and roadside bombs “designed to disrupt our ability to freely maneuver, whether that’s around Afghanistan or around the globe, are forcing us to rethink how we are going to project and sustain power if our logistics are under attack.”
The DoD official also noted that the US military was actively trying to make a difference in Afghanistan by promoting its alternative green energy strategy – which has thus far translated into a new suite of more efficient generators and centralized power.
“Our current approach to base camps often uses a lot of decentralized spot-power generation… So we’re trying to improve the efficiency of those generators, and at some bases where we can have larger power plants with [electric] grids, which are much more efficient.”
In addition, the Navy and Marine Corps are working to develop experimental forward operating bases dubbed exFOBs – testing them in the United States and deploying structures to Afghanistan. The bases use small-scale water purification, energy-efficient lighting and photovoltaic, or solar-based, energy harvesting to reduce the need for external power and water.
“The Marines with their exFOB and a series of Army initiatives are deploying a host of energy-efficient technologies. Whether it’s shelters and tent shades or solar power generation, there’s a range of material solutions that both ground components are pushing into the field,” added Fritz.